Top Ten Tips For A Police Station Rep
& Tips For The Newly Qualified Police Station Rep
(1) Read the Custody Record Thoroughly.
If you are an experienced police station rep you will know that the custody record can be a useful source of information obtainable from the police that may not be recorded elsewhere. Often it will list the client property and this may lead to you pursuing additional lines of disclosure which otherwise you may not have been aware of. It may record the client's mental health position; whether or not the client was intoxicated and many other useful bits of information. Always read it! You never know how useful it could be until you've examined it thoroughly.
(2) DDO's can be a useful source of information.
Often the DDO (designated detention officer) will know more about your client than the custody sergeant or the officer in the case. After all, he/she may have been caring for them and dealing face to face for many hours. Many DDO's are highly experienced and have been in the job for some time. As such they will often be able to tell you who are the "old lags" and who have only been arrested for the first time recently.
(3) Don't rely on what the client tells you for information.
Many years ago as one of a number of newly qualified police station reps I made the unfortunate decision to rely on what a client had told me as to her previous convictions. This client who was very criminally experience had obviously spotted me as a "new face". In consultation, she told me she had no previous convictions. This was a shop theft case. I made representations to the custody sergeant following interview in which she admitted the offence he might want to consider the possibility of the caution. The quick retort came back "Have you looked at your client 17 pages of previous convictions?"
A valuable lesson was learned that day.............
(4) Its not what the Officer tells you it's what he does not say
In all police forces that I have represented clients in it has been standard police practice to withhold important pieces of information from the police station representative. This is according to the police at least so that they can "test the clients account in an interview". Always be on the alert for what the officer could be hiding from you in terms of disclosure. It is particularly prevalent with newly qualified or probationer police officers. Often you will get a standard phrase "That is all I am prepared to disclose at this present time". Or "I believe that I have given you sufficient disclosure in order that you can advise your client". Quite often, the police do not seem to understand that the legal representative's role is to protect and advise their client. Sometimes disclosure is so inadequate your only option is to advise the client to go " no comment" in an interview. Do not be afraid to say this on tape when it comes to the police interviewing your client or intervening when they come up with new pieces of information.
(5) Don't be afraid to intervene in the interview.
Ed Capes Defending Suspects At Police Stations is the book to consult with regard to what type of questions to object to in police interviews and why. Read it! Don't be afraid to intervene in police interviews if you feel that the questioning is unfair. You are not there simply to act as an observer. Remember the Cardiff six case.
(6) If you're going to have a disagreement with a police officer make sure it's been recorded.
Where humanly possible if you know you're going to have a disagreement with a police officer try and ensure that it is recorded. The best place to do this is in the police interview. You will find that even the most disagreeable, arrogant and difficult officer will struggle when you explain politely and on tape what your request is. As it is recorded the whole interaction can be referred later to in court.
(7) Disclosure, Disclosure, Disclosure
Like it or not your job is to get the most disclosure that you can for your client that you can possibly can. Police officers will often try and hold as much as they can back. Withholding of disclosure is especially prevalent with newly qualified or probationer police officers. Often they seem to have been taught by rote. You may need to explain to them that the less you know about the alleged offence the more likely that you will have to advise your client that you do not have enough information and that he should go "No comment". Do not be afraid to do a prepared statement in these circumstances.
(8) Let clients know their chances of bail.
It is important to be realistic with clients as to their chances of bail especially if they are likely to be charged. You will do yourself no favours or the client if you mislead him as to his chances. Be realistic. Often this is the first and only thing on the client's mind. Give a reasoned explanation as to why/why not he may not get bail on this occasion and you will keep the client for life.
(9) Be realistic with outcomes
Never lie to a client as to the possible outcome of a case. Often you will not have enough information to say what could happen. Tell the client the possibilities in a calm and measured way and be realistic. Don't fall into the trap however and saying what the client wants to hear!
(10) Police stations will be ready at inconvenient times.
Police stations are rarely ready at 9 a.m. on Monday mornings when you have nothing else to do. They will be usually ready late at night, on evenings when you have things planned, on bank holidays and at weekends. Remember this is a way of life, not a job. I always have my bag packed, full of forms with me as you can never tell when the next police station will be ready!